Having and using hand cranks is lots of fun. Carrying them is not. Most hand cranks come in wooden cases with tops that lock or latch to their bases. These tops have handles for carrying, but should never be trusted. The machines are simply too heavy to place dependence on these small, usually very old, and often very abused latch or lock mechanisms. The recommended technique for carrying a hand crank is to pick the base up with both hands and carry it. The machines are heavy and this is awkward.
Various carrying or transport solutions have been worked out. Some folks who like to take a hand crank to quilting classes use the little folding airline luggage carts, and that works well. Sometimes a system of straps around the case can be worked out. By far the easiest approach is to make a specialized, heavy duty tote bag that will hold these machines.
I was recently challenged to come up with a machine tote pattern that could be taught or published on our web site. The following is the result.
Let me start by saying that it is vital that you understand that in practical terms, you can't depend on normal fabric for this job. You are going to need a heavy duty tote, one that can support up to 30 pounds of cast iron machine in a wooden box with sharp corners. Fortunately, the sailing community has faced this sort of need in the past, and developed a fairly standardized very heavy duty canvas tool tote. These are usually made of 20 oz. or thicker canvas, which is very stiff, but strong enough to handle the weight of lots of tools, and also tough enough to withstand constant jabbing by sharp tools. We don't need anything quite that heavy for our machines, but $3.00 a yard quilting cotton isn't going to do, either.
Since my wife works in the marine upholstery business, I went to her for advice. She recommended a tote made with a solid bottom and french seams, constructed of an acrylic upholstery fabric called Sunbrella (c). Sunbrella is equivalent to a 10 oz canvas, but is more tightly woven and therefore thinner. It is commonly used for all kinds of outdoor marine needs... sail covers, awnings, etc. It is waterproof and extremely durable. Sailcovers may last for 10 to 15 years in constant exposure to the weather.
While I used the Sunbrella (Hey, Ann gets it at cost by the commercial roll!) any equivalent heavy fabric would work. One advantage of using really heavy treated canvas is that it is stiff and therefore takes a form, making it easier to get the machine/case in and out.
To start my project, Ann had to instruct me in just what a french seam is. I took pictures as she made a little sample tote bag end. Here are those pictures with explanation:
Making a French Seam
A french seam is essentially a double stitched seam that is made "inside out" so that the seam allowance becomes invisible.
This will take a bit of explanation, but hopefully will become clearer. All we're trying to demonstrate here is the principle of the french seam. We'll get to actual tote dimensions later. Ann has cut a representative "end" of a tote. This is of light brown fabric. It's size is determined by how wide and high you want the ends of the tote to be. She has also cut a representative "middle" of a tote out of darker brown striped fabric. Its dimension is determined by how high (same as the ends, obviously) and how long you want the tote to be. She has determined the dimension of the bottom of this "tote", which will be the width of the protruding bottom of the dark brown piece.She has cut a slit in the MIDDLE fabric piece where each corner will be, then opened up the middle fabric and aligned, pinned or clipped the edges to the end piece. She then sewed a seam aroung three edges, the sides and bottom of the tote, 1/4" in from the edge. Pay especial attention to the fact that she continued the seam around the edges of the corners.
Here you see the end after the sewing of the previous seam. Disregard the short seam at the right. We weren't making a full tote here, so there was no need to continue it.
Special Note: Sunbrella, the fabric I worked with on this project, has no right or wrong side. Some of you will undoubtedly use fabric with pattern. That can get confusing with french seams. Note that this first half of the french seam is sewn on the RIGHT SIDE, or outside of the fabric.
The next step is to turn the tote inside out and poke the ligher brown "ears" through the gaps in the corners. (for those using patterned material, you are now looking at the WRONG SIDE of the fabric.)
|Finally, work each seam out till the fabric is right at the stitch line and finger press it nice and smooth. It should look like this.|
I got the flash a little too close on this one... sorry about that... Ann has stitched a second seam at about 3/4" in from the edge. The seam allowance from the first seam is locked inside this one. Note that when done this way, your machine is still only sewing through two layers of fabric, not four. You are sewing inside the edge of the first seam. You sew very carefully to the corner of the gap, The corner seam should be just INSIDE of the gap's corner, so the stitching is solid. (Again, you will be sewing this half of the french seam on the WRONG SIDE of the fabric.)
Now you turn the tote inside out, or rather right side out, again and this is what your finished outside will look like. Exercise some care in poking the corners out so you get a nice square look. There is a seam allowance on the inside, but it has no raw or ragged edging as that has been "sewn in" in the process.
I hope that's fairly clear. If not, keep it in mind as you go through the instructions for making the actual tote. It should get clearer. (I hope...)
Link to "Making the Tote Bag - Part One"